IT MAY not have been mentioned on The Sky At Night but a few years ago Britain was very nearly swallowed up by a renegade black hole. Eventually, the only way this catastrophe could be averted was through the offering of several young heavy bands of the late seventies as ‘sacrificial lambs’ for the slaughter. Thus, Liar, Lone Star and Marseille (each caught up in the whirlpool of punk fashionability) all disappeared into the abyss. For the first two combos, this was definitely a permanent situation, but Marseille have fought back hard, ready to rise once more from the jaws of the dragon!
As lead guitarist Neil Buchanan explains: “We came on the scene when it wasn’t hip to be a new, young band into Heavy Metal, and consequently we suffered Probably we arrived a year too early, but there’s still a buzz for us from hard-core fans. So, we feel it’s our duty to have another crack.”
The roots of Marseilles resurgence actually lie in their original demise. Back in 1979, everything seemed hunky-dory. Their eponymous debut LP (remember ‘Do It The French Way’, ‘Lady Of The Night’ and ‘Some Like It Hot’?) on Mountain Records proved a rather good entree of meaty melody, and tours with UFO / Whitesnake / Judas Priest / Gillan underlined their potential…
“After we’d done that 25-date tour with Whitesnake in 1980, promoters were talking seriously about putting us on as a headlining act in out own right,” reveals Buchanan. ‘We then went to the States for about three months, working with Blackfoot and Nazareth, and were literally. and the point of breaking, things were so hot. – But then Mountain (who also managed the band) went into liquidation – and It was ultra-liquidation! We flew back home to have a holiday and watch ‘Coronation St’ before starting on our second LP with Roger Glover producing (Japan collaborator John Punter had done the aforementioned first one), but we left all our equipment in the States – and because the company went bust we couldn’t get it back!’
18 months of scraping and saving followed before the band got them property back. But by that time Marseille it seemed had fallen apart, with all five members going their separate ways. “One week-end, though, Steve (Dinwoodie-bass), Keith (Knowles-drums) and myself got together and agreed that the bands we were with at the time weren’t as good as Marseille. So we decided to reform.”
That was early in’82. Soon after, the hard-core trio picked up local guitarist Mark Hay, and put the finishing touch to the new- look jigsaw by snatching gruff -voiced ‘Sav’ Pearse from Liverpool band Savage Lucy. Pearse is gonna be a phenomenon. A Scouse equivalent of Riot’s Rhett Forrester, he was doubtless weaned on a diet of molten vinyl and ‘Smoke On The Water’ at an age when most babies are fed fresh milk and Farley’s Rusks.
‘There’s nothing better than getting ‘high’ on rock music. And when I’m ‘on’, audiences are just gonna cower in fright,” he boasts with scarcely concealed glee. “When I pull on my white boots, I feel I just have to get on-stage and sing my heart out. I’m so into rock ‘n’ roll that I’d have an instant orgasm if someone fitted an echo unit to those boots. One day I’m gonna take my eyes out and replace ’em with massive headlights. Then, I’ll walk around with two Duracell batteries under my arms, beaming them straight into people’s faces!”
Is it any wonder Buchanan proclaims: “we’re proud to have ‘Sav’ as our front-man. He represents the spirit of Marseille.”
Watching the band rehearse the other day just served to underwrite their re-born talent. They preened, posed, and paced out through 50 minutes of scintillatingly hard music. You’d have thought there were 20,000 screaming, lurching Miami fans gradually going nova out front rather than an audience of two – myself and manager Derek Nicol. It was an electrifying, devouring amalgam of sleaze-tease with new songs (like ‘C.C Riders’, ‘Heat Of The Night’, not to mention a storming version of ‘Radar Love’ (covering Golden Earring’s original in cobwebs), proving Marseille aren’t coming back with a band, but a veritable nuclear detonation!
“We’re now at a stage when we need to feel an audience.” states Buchanan, a fact I’ll not argue with. ‘I think, we grew up quickly through touring with a band like Blackfoot, and it’ll show when we hit the road again. Blackfoot are just incredible; you can’t fail to learn from them. For instants, Rick Medlocke is one of the craziest guys I’ve ever seen on a stage and yet he’s only got one lung. Night after night, we’d watch in the wings as he’d go through an incredible routine, then come off after the set, go on a lung machine for a short time, then go out and do it all aver again during the encore. We reckoned that if he could do it with one lung, we’d surely be able to do it with two. And I hope we’ll prove the point very soon to British audience.”
“We’ve now realised that the kids want Marseille to be a total rock band, and we’ll play accordingly. In the past, we tried to come up with some songs to please the wider commercial market, ballads and so forth. But no more. We can be a top-selling act as a straight rockin’ band, there’s no need to introduce Barry Manilow numbers into the set.
If you want proof of this new policy then check out Marseilles soon due, latest waxing to hit the needle. It’s a three-track EP featuring ‘Till It’s Gone’ / ‘Open Fire’/We Got Rock ‘N’ Roll, songs clearly possessing a dangerous edge It’ll be coming out on The Next Record Company label (owned by Nicol), and is a tempting taster of what we can expect in the coming months.
People haven’t forgotten about Marseille,” says Buchanan in conclusion. “We’ve still got a cult following and now we’ll have to build on that. There’s a war being waged at the moment by all true rock ‘n’ rollers against calculator music of the sort Teardrop Explodes and Echo & The Bunnymen play.
MARSEILLE (Touch The Night) (Ultra Noise Ultra 3) 1985 MICK WALL
SIX YEARS ago I watched Marseille prance around the stage of the Hammersmith Odeon supporting UFO and 1 remember saying to my mate: These boyz could be very, very big one day,” I don’t know if he quite understood what I meant judging by the sour expression on his face, but I’m sure you know what I mean, right? Well, these years on, the band still haven’t made it, but they they’ve only now recorded an album as great as ‘Touch The Night.
Naw, naw seriously everybody The new Marseille album is a marvel, and if the band don’t become totally rich and
ultra-famous overnight on the strength of it then I promise you right now that the kid will bare his bum on the steps of Buckingham Palace and cry the immortal words “Let’s all beam the Queen!”
Produced by John Verity and consequently sounding as sharp and as sugar fresh as a cheerleader’s knickers, ‘Touch
The Night’ bounces around on the turntable like a two-year-old racehorse on heat.
Opening with the aptly titled ‘Crazy’ before sliding best-foot first into ‘Walking On A Highwire’, the tone is rocking, the touch is all coming straight from the wrist of Mark Ralton on guitars, Sav Pearce on lead vocals, Steve Dunwoodie on bass and Keith Knowles on drums, and the side-effects are wonderful on the nerves.
If only bands like Y&T could come up with songs as bitchin’ and as mirror-smooth as this, then one day they’d probably be able to pull themselves out from under the Journey shadow and really show the world what they’re capable of. The title track sounds just a little like ‘Faithfully’ from the Journey album ‘Frontiers’ and suffers not in the slightest because of it.
A noseful of tracks like Too Late’ and ‘Gate Crashin’ with just a black pinch of ‘Live Now Pay Later’ will jolt you up to the level of a yellow fever plague victim and then bring you down with a nice soft ride into the mushy musical domains of `Reach For The Night’, which is all Billy Squier pop choruses and sub -Keef Richards mutant guitar riffs.